Dear Stepfamilies,

The ostracizing of the American stepfamily continues.

As you might know already, stepparents are not legally related to their stepchildren. Laws are different in every state, and there are a few exceptions but overall WE ARE NOT FAMILY IN THE EYES OF THE LAW. That means unless you have a legal guardianship document that is signed by BOTH PARENTS if they are still living and available, then you can’t take the kids to the hospital and okay an emergency medical procedure that could save their lives, pick them up from school, ask for a report card from school, or GET THEM A LIBRARY CARD.

Seriously.

Today I went to the Dakota County Library in Lakeville, Minn. Because I did not have proof of legal guardianship I was not allowed to help my stepkids get library cards.

I was told this by a librarian in front of all of the children. She might as well have said YOU ARE NOT A REAL FAMILY. And a once proud stepfamily walked a little less tall today. Even though I really wanted to tell her off I knew it wasn’t this librarian’s fault. It is a policy.

With stepfamilies and the people who are not married who are living with other people’s kids OUTNUMBERING first families in America, these outdated policies are completely ridiculous.

Certainly the ostracizing of American stepfamilies will continue if we hold our tongues about tough issues or don’t share with our communities and schools and governments that their policies are based on 1950s dream-land and not the reality of the lives of the people they serve.

Please, please, please, check into the laws about your legal relationships in your state. And if you don’t have a legal guardianship document signed, ask your partner to talk to his ex about getting one signed for you.  And get it done.  

I don’t have one. Not because we haven’t had the discussion about the need for one or that anyone disagrees to it, but because no one (read DH) has ever gotten around to getting the document, encouraging our other household to sign it, and signing it himself. 

I am absolutely outraged. A library card. Three children were turned out on the street today by our country’s library system because a devoted stepparent who helps pay for the house they live in and the food they eat, who listens to them talk about their problems at school or with friends, who provides daycare during the summer, does their laundry, gives them hugs, bandages them up when they fall down, and helps try to raise them to be successful adults was not allowed to get them a library card.

This must change. It’s time we stood up for ourselves not only with our stepfamily members but with society at large, don’t you think?

Has anyone else felt ostrasized because you’re in a stepfamily? By your church, school, neighbors, government, friends, family?

Sincerely,

A wife, stepdaughter, stepmother, mother, author, blogger, podcaster, member of the press, and co-creator of this website.

 

~ by Jacquelyn Fletcher on August 6, 2009.

9 Responses to “Dear Stepfamilies,”

  1. The policies are outrageous and insulting to stepmoms, but I can understand that libraries, hospitals, and schools are just trying to protect themselves. This is exactly why I NEVER identify myself as “the stepmom” unless someone asks me directly. Letting them ASSUME I’m the bio-mom is much less hassle.

    P.S. I hope you let the kids check out books on your card.

    • Of course, on the opposite side of this issue, we biomoms who cannot afford to pay for insurance, yet make too much to qualify for Medicaid, are at the mercy of the welfare stepmommy who, due to her own refusal to get a job, qualifies for $1000 a month in food stamps, full coverage Medicaid insurance, and lords it over us because she can “put food on the table every night”. Never mind that it’s seldom healthy food unless their father puts his foot down.
      This is the same woman who decided that my child had “no right” to keep her own insurance card with her, who stated that I would “never” have my children live with me again if she had anything to say about it, and routinely has screaming hissy fits if my ex and I even have the opportunity to exchange half a dozen words.

      So, yes, by and large, the laws are unfair to stepparents. However, stepparents like that one don’t deserve the privilege of caring for our children. Just my two cents.

  2. That is enough to just Piss off the Pontif isn’t it? The truly insane thing about the non-status of step families and step parents, IMHO, is that as step parents we have not rights, we are “not a party to the case” when in family law courts supporting out spouses and Skids but …….. when the Skids are in our care we are legally liable and responsible for their well being. No rights, no parental privileges and all of the responsibilities.

    Just one more of those “things that make you wanna go hmmmmm?” in StepParent land.

  3. Seriously that is crazy, how is it we are legally liable for them when they are in are care but if something were to happen and we had to rush them to an ER we would not be able to get them in?? How in the world does that makes sense?? We live in a backwards world and need to stand-up ofr ourselves and for our families!

  4. How HORRIBLY sad!

    And what is worse? The fact that this HAS NOT CHANGED….people…GONE are the days of a Nuclear family, We are the stepparents..the ones who wait outside during court cases and trials and NEVER have our say! Yet we are the ones who get most shattered…I will say this about the Judge I had..when we had SUPERVISION VISITS..I was specifically named the supervisor…Thanks for bringing this up…as my SD gets older I will definitely brings this to my Husband’s attention…My heart and prayers go out to you..

  5. I agree- it’s ridiculous. A step parent is a parent-period.
    Shirley Cress Dudley

  6. What utter crap.

    How is a library card a legal document?

    I was able to sign for my stepdaughters’ library cards years ago. I don’t remember how. I think I simply omitted the “step” part and let them assume I was the mom. Doesn’t matter though. “Kids need to read!” they say, and when a responsible adult wants to make that happen, they’re told they’re “not allowed to”. Right on. Way to commit to the cause. 😦

    I’ll never forget my oldest stepdaughter’s grade 5 teacher telling my husband that she was not going to discuss my stepdaughter’s education with me. The only “mom” who gave a flying #$*# about it. DH threatened her with the school board and she caved. That was my worst experience.

  7. Step whatever…I’m a Parent first. Step is just a silly adjective.

    For a tiny podunk state, New Hampshire includes step parents on school forms. I’m listed as a contact. I deal with all the teachers, IEP reviews, and my stepson’s case manager. I make his doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, and I’m the one (along with DH) at SS’ counseling sessions.

    With remarried families outnumbering first families, the rest of the population needs to wake up.

  8. (THERE IS A NOTE ADDED AT THE END OF THIS POST THAT INVITES ANYONE INTERESTED IN WHAT IS WRITTEN HERE CONTACT INFORMATION.) I originally looked on this site to find a NICE letter to send to my exhusbands new wife but all of the examples were horrible and mean. I know over the years people have said our relationship was different; we remained good friends. I also like my ex’s new wife & she seems to care for our children & I prefer that her relationship with them is close so I will not be running interference to make things more difficult than they are. I hate when people do that – it is the kids that need to be focused on & I look at like “hey, they have more people to love they”. HOWEVER, that being said, there are things I agree with and things I don’t in the submission above. My boys are 10 & 13 and the only thing I ask to keep for myself is the title of “mom”. I told them point blank that it ok to love her (because they were worried about me) and that I would prefer it if they had a close relationship with her too. But, as far as the “stepparent rights”. My boys’ new parent has no children of her own & I go back and forth on whether that would hinder her insight as to the proper decision to make in a crisis situation. Now, I think it is ridiculous that a stepmom can’t get a library card or something like that. OH, and by the way, she can pick up the kids at school as long as she is on the childrens’ “list” that is kept with the office (signed by both parents of course). I THINK WHERE I COME DOWN ON THE ISSUE IS THAT THERE SHOULD BE SOME SORT OF MODIFIED OR AMENDED LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP GRANTED TO STEPPARENTS. AFTER ALL THERE ARE SOME DECISIONS THAT THEY SHOULD AND COULD MAKE AND THEN OF COURSE SILLY, DAILY NONCONSEQUENTIAL ITEMS LIKE A LIBRARY CARD THAT DON’T NECESSITATE CALLING IN THE NATIONAL GUARD! OK, IN THIS CASE THE CUSTODY DOCUMENTS OR AN EXTRA TRIP. WHERE I DO DRAW THE LINE THOUGH IS I WOULD NOT WANT MY BOYS’ STEPMOM MAKING LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS; SUCH AS MEDICAL DECISIONS. NO WAY! THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY VARIABLES: 1) SHE HAS NO BACKGROUND RAISING CHILDREN; 2) SHE IS JUST COMING INTO THEIR LIVES AT AGES 10 & 13; 3) SHE DOES NOT KNOW ME AT ALL AND THEREFORE HOW COULD SHE KNOW WHAT A MOTHER/THE MOM OF THESE 2 BOYS WOULD DECIDE. ONE COULD EVEN ARGUE THAT ALTHOUGH SHE KNOWS MY EX AS A HUSBAND SHE DOES NOT REALLY KNOW HIM AS A FATHER EITHER AND THEREFORE COULD NOT MAKE AN EDUCATED DECISION FROM THAT ASPECT.
    FINALLY, TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION THAT WE HAVE THE TYPES OF RELATIONSHIPS HERE THAT ARE MUTUALLY AMICABLE; I HAVE NO DESIRE WHATSOEVER TO FIGHT WITH HER FOR SEVERAL REASONS; PRIMARILY – I LOVE MY CHILDREN AND I DON’T WANT THEM TO THINK THEY HAVE TO CHOSE AND DO NOT WANT THEM TO STRESS OUT; I WILL ALWAYS CARE FOR MY EX AS A FRIEND & WOULDN’T WANT TO PUT HIM IN AN AWKWARD POSITION; AND ALSO I WANT TO MAKE IT EASY FOR HER TO FOR A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE KIDS AND IT IS HARD ON HER ALREADY WITHOUT SOME CRAZY BITCHY EXWIFE!! BUT FINALLY THE FACT REMAINS WHEN IT COMES TO LIFE & DEATH MEDICAL DECISIONS, NO MATTER HOW MUCH SHE LOVES THEM, THE ONLY, THE ONLY PEOPLE THAT SHOULD HAVE THE MORAL AND LEGAL RIGHT TO MAKE THOSE DECISIONS ARE THE PEOPLE WHO “BROUGHT THEM INTO THIS WORLD” (& TO ME THAT MEANS BIOLOGICAL PARENTS AND/OR ADOPTIVE PARENTS OF COURSE). I MEAN NO DISRESPECT TO THE STEPPARENT AT ALL; I AM SURE IT IS UPSETTING WHEN YOU LOVE THOSE CHILDREN AS IF THEY WERE YOUR OWN AND YOU GET TOLD SOMETHING LIKE THAT. BUT TO BE FAIR YOU REALLY NEED TO PUT YOURSELVES IN THE MOM’S SHOES (A PERFECTLY HAPPY TO SHARE MOM LIKE ME) AND UNDERSTAND THAT IT WOULDN’T BE RIGHT FOR THE LEGAL SYSTEM TO EVER ALLOW A STEPPARENT TO BE IN A POSITION TO EITHER OVERRIDE A PARENT’S DECISION. IF THE LEGAL SYSTEM CHANGED TO ALLOW WHAT YOU ARE WANTING, THEN IF A STEPMOM DISAGREED WITH WHAT A MOM WANTED IT WOULD SIMPLY COME DOWN TO WHOMEVER GOT DOWN TO THE COURT FIRST, OR THE HOSPITAL FIRST, OR SO ON. IF YOU THINK ABOUT THAT LOGICALLY YOU HAVE TO ADMIT IT IS NOT FAIR OR RIGHT TO THE BIOLOGICAL MOM. AND, WHILE I AGREE WITH YOU THAT NOT BEING ABLE TO SIGN FOR A LIBRARY CARD IS STUPID & THERE ABSOLUTLY SHOULD BE SOME WAY AROUND THAT; WE CAN NEVER INSTITUTE POLICIES AND LAWS TO WHICH YOU SPEAK AS FAR AS HAVING FULL ACCESS BECAUSE IN THAT ASPECT YOU ARE ESSENTIALLY TAKING AWAY PARENTAL RIGHTS THAT BELONG TO THE BIOLOGICAL PARENT AND SHOULD CONTINUE TO BELONG TO THEM AS LONG AS THEY ARE A FIT PARENT.

    TO BE SURE; SEEING THAT IT TOOK ME A NOVEL TO GET OUT MY THOUGHTS – LOL – I DEFINITELY DEFINITELY AGREE WITH YOU THAT IT WOULD BE NICER AND PROBABLY MORE EFFICIENT IF THERE WAS SOMETHING THAT COULD BE DONE. MOST LIKELY BECAUSE EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT (AND SOME SITUATIONS ARE EVEN DOWN RIGHT HOSTILE) THE COURT SHOULD ALLOW FOR CERTAIN DOCUMENTS TO BE FILED BASED ON EACH INDIVIDUAL BLENDED FAMILY. WELL, THIS IS ONE INSTANCE IN WHICH I DEFINITELY THINK PEOPLE SHOULD KEEP TRYING NEW IDEAS – HOWEVER, IT IS A SITUATION IN WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD DO THEIR VERY BEST TO BE CALM AND REFRAIN FROM ANY TYPE OF AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR. EVEN IF SOMEONE ELSE IN YOUR PARTICULAR FAMILY SITUATION IS BEING RUDE AND ACTING IN AN IMMATURE, HATEFUL AND HOSTILE MANNER; RETURNING THOSE ANGRY EMOTIONS ONLY INTENSIFY THE PROBLEM. IT IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE WHEN FEELINGS ARE INVOLVED AND I DO NOT CLAIM TO BE WISE, BUT I WAS DETERMINED TO TRY TO DO THIS IN THIS WAY FROM THE BEGINNING AND ALTHOUGH THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW HICCUPS; I CAN TELL YOU THAT I AM GLAD THAT MY EX AND I CAME THROUGH THIS IN THIS MANNER, OUR BOYS HAVE COME THROUGH A DIVORCE ABOUT AS WELL AS CAN BE EXPECTED AND I THINK THEIR NEW STEPMOM WILL FIND THAT ANY ANXIETY AND/OR UNCERTAINTY THAT SHE MAY FEEL WILL QUICKLY DISSIPATE AS SOON AS SHE REALIZES THAT I HAVE NO INTENTION OF MAKING THIS DIFFICULT FOR HER WITH MY EX OR WITH THE KIDS. AT ANY RATE, IF ANYBODY WOULD LIKE TO TALK/EMAIL ABOUT HOW TO GET OUT OF AND/OR WORK ON THIS CYCLE OF RELATIONSHIP HATRED, FIGHTING, AND CONTINUOUS PROBLEMS THAT SEEMS TO PLAGUE BLENDED FAMILIES, PLEASE POST A MESSAGE AND I WILL SEND AN EMAIL TO YOU.

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